20th March 2020 – United Kingdom
UPDATES COMING SOON
More stories added soon.
22:01 France clamps down on ‘le week-end’
As France spends its first Friday under a national lockdown, authorities have warned city dwellers to refrain from their traditional weekend escapes to the countryside.
Such jaunts, national police head Jean-Paul Pecquet reminded citizens, were not among the exceptions to the travel restrictions. “I urge people to be public spirited and responsible,” he said.
Police patrols are being stepped up at all Parisian railway stations from Friday to Sunday. Those caught violating the lockdown will not be allowed to board trains and face fines of €135 (£122; $145).
21:31 Illinois announces ‘shelter-in-place’ mandate
The governor of Illinois has ordered the state’s 13 million residents to “shelter-in-place” starting Saturday.
This means they should stay at home unless they have an essential reason to go out.
Non-essential businesses will be shut down, but people will still be allowed to go to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and to take walks outside. Roads will remain open.
“We don’t know yet all the steps we’re going to have to take to get this virus under control,” Governor J.B. Pritzker told media at a press conference.
These orders encompass Chicago, the state’s biggest city and the third-most populous city in the US.
Chicago mayo Lori Lightfoot told residents they should “stay home”.
The directive will take effect on Saturday at 5pm local time (2100 GMT) and last until 7 April.
On Thursday California issued sweeping stay-at-home orders that affected 40 million Americans.
19:52 London’s congestion charge suspended
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that the congestion charge and other road charging schemes will be “temporarily suspended” from Monday “to support our critical workers”.
“I’m urging all Londoners – do not travel unless absolutely necessary, so that these heroes can do their jobs,” he said.
19:22 ‘With a heavy heart’ UK scales down VE commemorations
The UK government has announced that it will be scaling back its VE Day commemorations including cancelling the veterans’ procession down the Mall in central London.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says he has taken the decision with “a heavy heart” but added that amid the coronavirus outbreak “our key priority now is to protect their [the veterans’] health and wellbeing.”
A parade and concert that had been due to take place in Edinburgh will be rescheduled, as will Cardiff’s planned drumhead service and military parade.
19:22 UK suspends driving tests
The UK government is suspending driving tests for up to three months, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said.
“Key workers will still be able to take their tests. Those who have tests cancelled will have priority on resumption,” he said on Twitter.
“We’re having to take big decisions as we protect the public in our nation’s fight against Covid-19.”
18:57 France reports 78 more deaths
France reported 78 new deaths from coronavirus on Friday, taking the total to 450, according to the country’s health authorities. The number of confirmed cases is at 12,612.
18:48 ‘Backs to wall’ but Switzerland stops short of lockdown
Health Minister Alain Berset appealed to the Swiss population to stick to the government’s measures for several weeksImage caption: Health Minister Alain Berset appealed to the Swiss population to stick to the government’s measures for several weeks
Switzerland’s outbreak is thought to be four days behind Italy’s.
On Friday, Health Minister Alain Berset warned that Switzerland “had its back to the wall” and demanded co-operation from every single member of the population.
He wants everyone off the streets, but doesn’t want to impose a total lockdown.
Groups of five or more are banned, everyone must stay at home except to shop or work in essential services.
In a population of 8.57 million, Switzerland has seen 4,840 cases and 43 deaths. Many of its 800 intensive care beds are in use.
As ever, Switzerland has one eye on its economy: with all the shops, schools, and restaurants closed, the government has announced a $40bn (£34bn) package to support businesses and workers, including apprentices and part-timers.
A relief to millions of Swiss waiting at home, wondering about their salaries, bills, and mortgages.
18:40 Lib Dems: Too little being done for the self-employed
Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey says: “Whilst the package announced is welcome, we are worried that too little is being done for the self-employed, for those on zero hours’ contracts or for those on statutory sick pay and benefits.
“This would send a strong signal that we care for everyone in our society.”
Comment: The Conservative party has just announced an unprecedented package and assistance to combat the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic and yet the Labour Party and now the Lib Dems are still critical. This package is already likely to take more than decade to recover from and yet there is still the call for more… more… more.
More will be coming, undoubtedly, when it will be the most effective but before you start demanding 110% of your wages and free everything else, remember, whilst they are taking measures to maintain society today, the bill will be passed onto our children and in turn their children.
And if you doubt that, we made the last repayment on our post war loans from the US on 29th December 2006 after 60 years of repayments.
17:29 More detail on new UK financial aid
The chancellor also said self-assessment income payments would be deferred and business interruption loans would be interest fee for 12 months, rather than the six months previously announced.
“In the face of a generation-defining moment, we want to remember that we stood together,” the chancellor said.
17:22 More on UK wage aid
A bit more on those grants. The government will pay 80% of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 a month, the chancellor says.
17:21 VAT payments deferred
Mr Sunak said he would defer the next quarter of VAT payments for firms, until the end of June. It represents in a £30bn injection into the economy.
17:18 ‘No business will pay VAT until end of June’
The chancellor says he is also deferring VAT for all businesses until the end of June.
17:14 Takeaways will still be open, says PM
Boris Johnson added that takeaways would be excluded from the new measures coming in from tonight. The measures on closures will be reviewed on a monthly basis.
17:13 Takeaways will still be open, says PM
Boris Johnson added that takeaways would be excluded from the new measures coming in from tonight.
The measures on closures will be reviewed on a monthly basis.
17:10 PM: Cafes, pubs and bars to close
Mr Johnson says the government is strengething the measures announced earlier this week.
“We are telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not reopen tomorrow.”
Places like nightclubs, cinemas and gyms will also follow suit.
The measures will be considered as time goes on, Boris Johnson says. But he stresses people should not go out tonight to such venues.
“We want you to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives,” he adds.
Me Johnson said it seemed to go against the freedom-loving instincts of British people but “we will get through this – we will get through it together and beat this virus”.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted that the measures to shut pubs and other public spaces were “absolutely essential to do this given the excruciating pressure hospitals, especially in London, are under”.
16:58 Stock-selling US senator asks to be investigated
Republican Senator Richard Burr, who is facing calls to resign after it emerged he had sold stocks before the market downturn, is asking the Republican-controlled Senate Ethics Committee to investigate.
The North Carolina senator, who had been pleading with the American public to remain calm as the White House downplayed the threat, tweeted a new statement on Friday.
He said his decision to sell stocks, which lost value after his sell-off, was made “solely based on public news reports”. He specifically cited the Asia coverage provided by the CNBC network.
“Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight however,” he said in a short statement, “I spoke with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee this morning and asked him to open a complete view of the matter with full transparency.”
16:39 Death rate ‘double for men’
Data coming from Italy indicates the Covid-19 death rate for men is double that for women, according to the White House coronavirus taskforce. It has just held a briefing with President Donald Trump in Washington.
The US, Canada and Mexico have reached a deal to significantly curtail tourist travel across their borders but they pledged that trade would not be affected.
And the deadline for Americans to file income taxes has been moved from 15 April to 15 July.
President Trump is taking questions now.
16:20 Canada to turn asylum seekers away at border
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will send migrants seeking asylum at the border back to the United States.
An influx of asylum seekers crossing at the US-Canada border has become a hot button political issue in recent years, and has intensified over coronavirus concerns.
About 16,000 migrants crossed irregularly at the US border seeking refugee status in Canada in 2019, mostly in Quebec. Asylum seekers are typically given housing and certain social services while they wait for their claim to be evaluated.
But the spread of Covid-19 has raised new concerns. Earlier this week, Mr Trudeau said asylum seekers would be held in quarantine but on Friday he said Canada and the US had reached an agreement that irregular border crossers would be sent back.
On Wednesday, Mr Trudeau announced that he and US President Donald Trump had agreed to close the US-Canada border to all non-essential travel in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.
16:12 US-Mexico border movement curtailed
The US and Mexico have agreed to restrict “non-essential” travel across the common border, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces.
16:03 New York imposes new restrictions
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered all non-essential workers to stay home as cases continue to rise in the state. He has also ordered a moratorium on all residential and commercial evictions for the next 90 days.
“Sixteen days ago, we were at zero. Today we are at 2,900. Those numbers are why we’re taking these actions.”
Mr Cuomo has also issued additional rules for citizens. Vulnerable individuals should only go outside for solitary exercise, avoid public transport, and wear masks. Non-vulnerable groups are barred from non-essential gatherings outside of private homes, including group exercise, and must practise social distancing of at least six feet (2m).
“This is not life as usual,” the governor said. “Accept it and realise it and deal with it.”
He noted the provisions, which go into effect Sunday, will be enforced through a civil fine and mandatory closure for any businesses not in compliance with this guidance.
The governor said the surge in New York coronavirus cases was due to increased testing capability and that the state was testing more people per capita than China or South Korea, with 10,000 tests processed last night.
15:46 Spain hopes to ‘flatten curve in two weeks’
We reported earlier that Spain had become the fourth country to register more than 1,000 deaths from the virus.
But the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha González has said the government hopes to flatten the curve of infection “within two weeks”.
“That’s the prognosis we’re working with at the moment,” she told the BBC. “It will rely on a co-ordinated approach and responsible behaviour from our citizens.”
“That’s our hope and that’s where we’re putting all our energy. Our entire country is embarked in a fight.”
Ms González also reassured Spaniards that there was a sufficient supply of equipment.
“We have a good stock of products and are purchasing more medical and sanitary equipment,” she said.
15:44 England has 39 more deaths
A further 39 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, NHS England has announced.
That brings the total number of confirmed reported deaths in England to 167.
15:33 Nine new cases in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland nine more people have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of cases to 86.
It comes a day after it announced its first virus-related death – an elderly man in Belfast who had an underlying medical condition.
15:30 GCSE and A-level grades awarded by teachers
The UK government has issued more advice on how pupil grades will be decided after the cancellation of GCSEs and A-levels exams.
It says the grades in England will be based on teacher assessments – taking into account “a range of evidence and data”, such as mock exam results and other school work.
The government says the aim will be for the “calculated” grades to be awarded by the end of July.
Students will also have other options – they can sit an exam early in the next academic year which starts in September – if they want to.
They can also appeal if they are not satisfied that their calculated grade reflects their performance, or can choose to sit exams in summer 2021.
15:21 ‘Europe won’t recover’ without Italy
The European Union may never recover if the bloc leaves Italy to fend for itself during the coronavirus pandemic, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has warned, saying member states have to come together.
“If it’s everyone for themselves, if we let down some states, if we say to Italy, for example, ‘do it alone’, Europe will not recover,” he told French TV.
The European Central Bank has earmarked funding to support the economy, but the EU has not harmonised practical measures to stop the spread of the virus.
13:45 Four members of the same family die in the US
A New Jersey mother and her three adult children have died from coronavirus, and three more relatives are in hospital, after they had a family dinner together, according to US media.
Grace Fusco, 73, and three of her children died on Wednesday and Thursday. Three more of her children are now in hospital.
Nineteen family members are now self-isolating, according to family representative Paradiso Fodera, and have waited nearly a week to learn the results of their virus tests.
13:31 Pollution drop in China amid industrial slowdown
In China, where the coronavirus first appeared, industrial production, sales and investment all fell in the first two months of the year, compared with the same period in 2019.
And the country’s industrial slowdown has been visible from space. Nasa said pollution-monitoring satellites had detected a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide over China, as the image below shows.
12:56 Restriction should continue ‘most of a year’
Policies to limit the spread of coronavirus would need to be in place for “at least most of a year” to prevent intensive care units being overwhelmed, according to official scientific advice to the government.
The documents, prepared by the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said alternating between more and less strict measures could “plausibly be effective at keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity”.
12:27 UK’s chief Brexit negotiator self-isolating
The UK’s chief negotiator in post-Brexit trade talks, David Frost, is self-isolating after showing symptoms of coronavirus.
It comes a day after the European Union’s lead negotiator, Michel Barnier, announced he had tested positive.
12:16 Third death in Wales
A third person has died in Wales after being diagnosed with coronavirus. Aged 71, the person had underlying health conditions. There are 170 confirmed cases in Wales, according to the latest figures. As in the rest of the UK, all schools are to shut today.
In England, there have been 128 deaths and 2,756 confirmed cases. Services on the London Underground network have been reduced further as part of efforts to reduce the spread of the outbreak.
Six people have died in Scotland, and there are 266 confirmed cases.
Northern Ireland has 77 confirmed cases, and the first coronavirus-related death was confirmed there yesterday. First Minister Arlene Foster has said she is asking people to “embrace the spirit of Northern Ireland and work together” to combat the outbreak.
12:10 First British arrest for failing to self-isolate
A man has been arrested for allegedly failing to self-isolate after arriving on the Isle of Man – thought to be the first person held in the British Isles for breaching quarantine rules.
The island passed emergency legislation requiring new arrivals to quarantine themselves for 14 days regardless of symptoms on Tuesday.
The 26-year-old man, who was arrested after failing to self-isolate on arrival, could face a fine of up to £10,000 or three months in prison.
Over in the US, some university students have also been defying warnings. Watch the video below of students flocking to Florida for their spring break.
11:58 Bavaria restricts personal movement
It has become the first German state to order widespread restrictions on personal movement.
Stopping short of imposing a full lockdown, the state prime minister, Markus Soeder, said that, as of Saturday, leaving the house was only allowed with good reason, including going to work, shopping, visits to the doctor or pharmacy, supporting others or visiting partners.
Outdoor sports and activity are still allowed, but only alone or with people from the same household.
11:38 Australians warned against exodus from cities
After Australia’s devastating bushfires, a tourism campaign urged people to visit the hardest hit areas to help get the economy back on track.
But the president of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia has warned that trying to use those places – and other rural and regional areas – as a bolthole to isolate away from the cities is “a bad idea”.
Many worst-hit places in New South Wales, for example, already have higher-than-average proportions of older people, and few intensive care beds.
“People are thinking they are going to find protection – but if they become unwell they are likely to find themselves in a situation where it’s difficult accessing healthcare,” Dr John Hall told the ABC’s Radio National.
11:19 World Snooker Championship postponed
The World Snooker Championship, due to start at the Crucible on 18 April, is postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
11:14 Army to help enforce lockdown in Malaysia
Malaysia’s army has been drafted in to help police enforce a nationwide lockdown as the country battles south-east Asia’s largest outbreak.
Defence Minister Ismail Sabri told reporters the decision was taken after people continued to go for walks in parks and eat out in restaurants, despite being asked to restrict their movements.
“We are confident that with the army’s help, stricter enforcement can be carried out,” he said, according to news agency AFP.
Malaysia has recorded more than 900 cases of the virus, with more than 500 infections stemming from a religious gathering at a mosque near Kuala Lumpur in February.
Two people have died so far.
The government is hoping the two-week lockdown – which has seen all businesses, schools, government offices and religious institutions close down – will help them contain the spread.
11:02 No more Changing of the Guard for now
The Changing of the Guard ceremonies at Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and Windsor Castle have been postponed until further notice.
Buckingham Palace said the move was “in line with government advice to avoid mass gatherings”.
The palace added in a statement that the situation would be “reviewed on an ongoing basis, with a view to restarting when appropriate”.
10:46 India’s most populous city inches closer to shutdown
All private workplaces in Mumbai barring grocers, pharmacies and other essential services have been ordered to close until 31 March. It is the closest an Indian city has come to a complete shutdown.
Schools, colleges, malls and cinema halls have already closed in both Mumbai and other Indian cities.
There are now 47 active Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra, the state where Mumbai is located. India overall has 206 infections.
Mumbai contributes 6% of India’s GDP and 30% of its income tax revenue
10:45 Spanish death toll passes 1,000
The death toll from the coronavirus in Spain now stands at 1,002, authorities say. Nearly 20,000 people have been infected while 1,588 people recovered.
10:33 Hong Kong records biggest daily jump in cases
The Chinese territory says it has recorded 48 new cases of the virus, its biggest daily jump.
Medical experts have warned of the renewed risk of a sustained outbreak because of residents returning from overseas, the South China Morning Post reports.
“This is the worst time to relax because we’re at the highest risk since this began,” said Prof Gabriel Leung, dean of the University of Hong Kong’s medical faculty and a member of an official expert panel on the outbreak.
“It is absolutely critical especially as we have this influx of Hong Kong returnees starting from a few days ago and continuing for the next few days. This is the highest risk and we must be extra vigilant.”
Hong Kong has had 208 cases confirmed so far and four deaths, Reuters news agency reports.
10:23 MP to return to NHS front line
Former UK nurses and doctors have been asked to come to the help of the NHS during this crisis – and one of those to answer the call is Conservative MP Maria Caulfield.
She says she will be returning to her job as a nurse alongside her political role.
The MP for Lewes in East Sussex says she has kept her nursing registration and uniform since she became an MP in 2015 and it “will be very easy to get back into the swing of things”.
10:08 Public transport services reduced around UK
Travellers face disruption as operators continue to cut their services because of falling demand.
This comes after the government asked people to work from home and avoid public places.
Among services affected:
- Train companies Northern, TransPennine Express and South Western Railway are already running reduced timetables
- Other train operators, including Great Western Railway, will reduce services from Monday – although they will still run core services to ensure key workers can get to their jobs
- Transport for London have closed 40 Underground stations until further notice, while bus services will be reduced
- Buses in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester are cutting services
09:51 US senator urged to resign over stocks sell-off
A senator from President Donald Trump’s Republican party is facing calls to resign over allegations he used insider knowledge to sell off shares before their prices tumbled over coronavirus fears.
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr and his wife sold up to $1.7m (£1.4m) in stock in February shortly before the global market downturn.
Senate documents show the North Carolina Republican and his wife made 33 transactions, US media report. This is despite an article by Sen Burr shortly before the sell-off that said the US government was “taking steps to protect you” in the face of the outbreak.
Conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson has said Sen Burr must resign. The senator denies any impropriety.
08:21 Who can still send their kids to school in the UK?
The government’s advice is clear: if you can keep your children at home, do so. But key workers still have the right to send their children to school. These are workers in:
- health and social care, including doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff
- education and childcare
- key public services including those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, “those responsible for the management of the deceased”, and journalists and broadcasters who provide public service broadcasting
- local and national government
- food and other necessary goods, including those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery
- public safety and national security, including police and support staff; Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel; fire and rescue service employees, border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles
- utilities, communication and financial services
06:50 Philippines bans entry of foreigners
Foreigners will no longer be allowed to enter the Philippines starting from midnight on Sunday, the Department of Transport has said.
Domestic flights to and from Manila are currently suspended, school classes have been cancelled and police and army personnel are manning quarantine checkpoints and enforcing evening curfews.
The British embassy in Manila say around 200 Britons in the country are currently affected by the travel restrictions. But the Philippine government says all foreign visitors will be allowed to leave the country unimpeded.
The ruling comes after the Philippines suspended the issuance of visas and visa-free privileges worldwide.
However there are exemptions to the rule. Foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals are exempted, as are foreign government and international organisation officials and their dependents with previously issued visas.
The suspension of visas will last until 12 April.
There are 217 confirmed cases in the country but experts believe the real number of cases is likely to be much higher.
06:22 The truth about coronavirus and ibuprofen
You might have received a WhatsApp message or two telling you not to take ibuprofen if you have the coronavirus.
Some of these messages warn that doing this has led to several critical cases of coronavirus, especially in youth people.
Speaking to the BBC, medical professionals said that ibuprofen is not recommended for managing coronavirus symptoms.
The NHS says that, while “there is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus (Covid-19) worse, until we have more information take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you”.
06:18 Retired medics urged to return to NHS
Letters are being sent to more than 65,000 retired doctors and nurses in England asking them to return to the NHS to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
Senior officials say the ex-employees are needed to boost frontline services.
Final-year medical students and student nurses could also be given temporary work to boost the ranks.
06:05 UK prepares package to protect jobs
If you’re waking up in the UK and turning straight to news, good morning and welcome to our live coverage. We’ve covered major developments from the US, Australia and across Asia so far today from here in Singapore.
Later on in the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce an employment and wage subsidy package to try to protect millions of jobs threatened by the pandemic.
Talks went on into the night with business groups and union leaders, who urged the government to help pay wages.
Many firms are warning of collapse, wiping out thousands of jobs, as life in the UK is largely put on hold.
BBC Economics Editor Faisal Islam says: “All sides were speaking with one voice about an unprecedented scheme to help workers get through a temporary economic stoppage.”
The announcement will come just days after the government unveiled a range of financial measures, including £330bn ($385bn) in loans, £20bn in other aid, a business rates holiday, and grants for retailers and pubs.
05:52 Sri Lanka imposes curfew, postpones election
Sri Lanka has imposed a nationwide curfew from 18:00 pm local time (12:30 GMT) on Friday until 06:00am on Monday.
The measure was announced a day after the election commissioner postponed parliamentary elections that were scheduled for next month.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had earlier said there was no reason to postpone elections.
He had been hoping to win a two-thirds majority in parliament, which would allow him to change the constitution.
The country has seen a spike in cases in the last few days – the number of active infections has almost doubled in the last three days.
The Government Medical Officers Association – a trade union of state medical professionals – has warned that Sri Lanka’s case trajectory is even worse than that of Italy.
05:46 China again reports no new domestic cases
China says that once again, it has recorded a day with no new local infections – that’s cases transmitted within China, where the outbreak started.
There were though 39 new cases. Beijing says all were imported – which means travellers from abroad thought to have contracted the virus outside China and tested positive only after entering the country.
The number of deaths in China has also slowed dramatically: there were only three new fatalities, authorities say, taking the overall toll to 3,248.
But there’s been repeated accusations that these official figures cannot be relied on.
Beijing’s focus has shifted from stemming local transmissions to stopping the virus from coming back into the country from outside. It’s also a major propaganda line for China which had been criticised for how it handled the early stages of the outbreak.
China and many international observers say that the decline in cases is due to its drastic lockdown measures, where whole cities and provinces were essentially put into quarantine.
Should the virus be reimported, Beijing is likely to point the finger at other countries for failing to emulate its progress.
05:24 Virus shuts down Nasa sites
As millions of Americans are told they can’t go the mall anymore, it turns out the US also might not be able to go to the Moon – or at least not when they’d hoped to.
NASA’s plan to return Americans to the Moon by 2024 has been dealt a blow as the space agency on Thursday ordered the shutdown of two rocket production facilities after one employee tested positive for Covid-19.
The two affected sites are in New Orleans and Mississippi.
05:19 Olympic flame arrives in Japan to uncertain future
The Olympic flame has arrived in Japan although it’s anything but certain the Tokyo 2020 Games will even go ahead.
The flame arrived on special chartered flight and was received by former Japanese Olympians, Saori Yoshida and Tadahiro Nomura.
But the event had been dramatically scaled back. The flame was taken through a guard of honour to a cauldron in the shape of a cherry blossom. The 200 local children who were due to welcome the flame were not there.
There has been mounting criticism of Japan insisting on sticking to the Olympics plans. Athletes have accused the IOC of putting them “in danger” by insisting it remains fully committed to the Games.
04:46 Saudi Arabia suspends domestic flights
Saudi Arabia is suspending all domestic flights.
Buses, taxis and trains are also being stopped for two weeks.
The new measures will come into effect on Saturday morning, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The suspension does not apply to essential flights relating to humanitarian and medical aircraft or buses used to transport people for health reasons, SPA added.
More than 270 infections have been confirmed in the kingdom, but no deaths.
04:26 India restricts public transport
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking all citizens to stay home to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, India’s massive public transit systems are severely curtailing services.
Public transport remains the main mode of travel for a majority of the country’s citizens.
In the northern state of Punjab, all public transport has been suspended with immediate effect.
In the capital Delhi, the metro rail service in the capital Delhi will no longer stop at crowded stations, train frequency will be altered, and there will be random thermal scanning of passengers.
In Mumbai, there is talk that the local railway lines – considered the lifeblood of the city – could be halted in coming days. Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of Maharashtra state where Mumbai is located, said he “wants to see empty trains”.
Buses in major cities will also no longer allow standing passengers, and the number of buses that ply has been halved in most cities.
03:48 First cases in vulnerable Haiti
With all the focus on the US and California right now, the virus remains a global story and one by one is spreading to new countries.
The story is very different in each country, but there are some more vulnerable than others.
Here’s one we think is important to point out: Haiti just had its first two cases. The country is already suffering from widespread poverty and the poor health care system would likely be unable to handle a widespread outbreak of the virus.
Haiti was one of the last Caribbean nations to remain coronavirus-free and had already stopped flights from many international destinations earlier this week in a bid to prevent the disease’s entry.
The country declared a state of emergency, closing borders and imposing a curfew.
If you want to keep on overview of which countries have cases and how many there are many places online that give you numbers.
03:32 Australia orders ‘4sq m per person’ indoors
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison minutes ago announced that for indoor gatherings, people will need to have “four square metres per person in an enclosed space”.
The nation banned non-essential gatherings of more than 100 people earlier this week to reduce the spread of the virus. Schools, public transport, and public squares are not included.
But this restriction will undoubtedly affect pubs, restaurants and other spaces.
Mr Morrison says: “If you’ve got a room, if you’ve got a premises, if you’ve got a meeting room or something like that, that’s 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room.”
The nation’s cases have more than doubled to over 700 in the past week.
03:25 Argentina locks down nationwide
Argentina has announced a national lockdown.
All citizens are banned from leaving their homes except to buy food and medicines until the end of March.
The number of coronavirus cases in Latin America has not reached European proportions.
But the BBC’s Katy Watson in Sao Paulo, Brazil, says judging by decisions taken in the last few days, governments there are not taking any chances.
03:17 Urgent warning for cruise ship passengers
Passengers who disembarked the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney, Australia, are being warned to self-isolate immediately, after three people tested positive for coronavirus.
Three of 13 people tested for the virus have returned positive tests, New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
The ship docked on Thursday with 2,700 passengers.
03:05 South Korea to test everyone coming from Europe
South Korea will require all arrivals from Europe to be tested for coronavirus from midnight on 22nd March.
If the test is negative:
- South Korean citizens or those on long term visas will still be asked to isolate themselves for 14 days, either at home if they have an address in the country or in a government facility.
- If a foreigner arrives in South Korea from Europe for just a short term stay and tests negative for the virus, they will have to download a phone application to check their symptoms daily and they will be called by health officials every day.
If they test positive for the virus:
- They will be quarantined and treated according to their symptoms. All other travellers from overseas will face special entry procedures including a temperature check, medical questionnaire and daily checks on their symptoms via an application on their phone.
02:11 G7 summit called off
The US has called off this year’s G7 summit which had been scheduled for June in Camp David.
Or at least, the leaders and delegations won’t be meeting in person – turns out even a global summit can be done from home.
The White House said the meetings would take place remotely by videoconference “in order for each country to focus all of its resources on responding to the health and economic challenges of Covid-19,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
The G7 summit is an annual get-together of the world’s seven largest economies. That’s Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
But all those countries are currently in crisis mode to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to shore up their economies against the impact the crisis is expected to have.
01:59 California issues ‘stay at home’ order
California’s governor has issued a statewide “stay at home” order to all residents due to the pandemic. They can only leave their homes when necessary.
“This is a dynamic situation. I don’t expect this will be many many months but for the time being we are recognising the next eight weeks and we want to get that curve down. We want these numbers to be in the dustbin of history – that’s why it’s an order without a specific deadline.”
California is the most populous state in the US with about 40 million residents.
Before the statewide California lockdown was announced moments ago, Los Angeles had already ordered all residents of the second-largest city in the US to stay inside their homes to “immediately limit all nonessential movement” in the face of the pandemic.
The pace of these developments really brings home how US officials seem to be racing against time to contain the virus.
“We’re taking this urgent action to limit the spread of Covid-19 and save lives,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said during an afternoon news conference before the state-wide measures were announced.
That’s all “non-essential retail businesses” closing for now. The mayor said the orders would require the shutting of all indoor shopping malls, playgrounds and other gathering places – at least until the end of the month.
There’s a lot of anxiety in California tonight after its governor shared projections that more than half of its population – roughly 20 million people – could come down with the virus.
But Governor Gavin Newsom says he hopes the stay at home order will bring these numbers down.
“The point of the stay at home order is to make these numbers moot, so the projection no longer becomes a reality because we changed our behaviour.”
As the press conference continued, Governor Gavin Newsom was asked what would happen to undocumented immigrants in the state that did not have access to healthcare or might not be able to go to the doctor’s.
He said California has “universal healthcare, regardless of immigration status”.
The Public Policy Institute of California says the state is home to between 2.35 to 2.6 million undocumented immigrants.
The virus has so far claimed 200 lives in the US and infected 13,678 people.
California is not expected to use law enforcement to make people comply with the “stay at home” order. Governor Gavin Newsom said he’s counting on “social pressure” to encourage people to follow the order – reports ABC30 News.
“Just a nod and a look saying, ‘Hey, maybe you should reconsider being out there on the beach, being 22-strong at a park'”, he said.
Governor Newsom has ended the press conference by saying he acknowledges the xenophobia and racism that is “being perpetuated” towards people of Asian descent in California.
He said there had been a “huge increase in people that are assaulting people on the basis of [where] they were born, how they look”.
“[We are in] a state where 27% of us are foreign born, a state that is truly universal. In order to meet this moment we have to recognise our common humanity.”
Sources: Various news sources including but not limited to BBC News, Fox News, CNN.